Birmingham's political establishment rounded on the Government last night, warning Ministers not to impose an American-style elected mayor on the city.

Leaders of the city council's Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition went on the offensive in advance of a local government White Paper expected later this year, which is likely to press the case for elected mayors.

Deputy council leader Paul Tilsley hit out at what he said were "one or two people" who were not councillors but felt they had the political experience and the skills necessary to become mayor and run Birmingham.

He did not name the contenders, but added: "They know who they are."

Coun Tilsley (Lib Dem Sheldon) said well known figures mentioned in newspapers as mayoral contenders had done nothing to stop the speculation. "They haven't phoned up and said 'my name must not be mentioned in this context'. They were very happy for their names to be mentioned.

"But some of them would have great difficulty in standing for office in Birmingham because they don't live here. They don't have any qualification."

Coun Deirdre Alden (Con Edgbaston) blamed a combination of former CBI director general Sir Digby Jones and The Birmingham Post, who she accused of "resurrecting the idea" of an elected mayor.

Cabinet member Sue Anderson said it would be dangerous to give one person so much power.

Coun Anderson (Lib Dem Sheldon) added: "There is a risk of any Tom, Dick or Harriet who can get their name and an article and a quote in a newspaper thinking they can be elected mayor and rule this city."

Last night's full council meeting passed a resolution calling on the Government not to impose an elected mayor on Birmingham without the agreement of the council and the people of Birmingham. Councillors also opposed a move to switch the existing system of council elections, where one-third of members are re-elected each year, to elections once every four years, where all 120 seats would be contested.

Five years ago the council held a ballot to gauge public opinion on the mayoral issue.

The Government decided not to press the issue and ruled against forcing the council to hold a referendum.